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CROP Walk organizers seek volunteers to 'shadow' their long-time leaders

Bonnie Churchwell

Bonnie Churchwell

Having helped coordinate CROP Hunger Walks in Spokane for 12 years, Bonnie Churchwell and several others on the planning committee seek some new people to “shadow” them as they organize the 2007 walk.

With just a few people, the CROP Walk Committee plans and presents the annual fund-raising event that assists with global hunger relief, disaster relief and development programs of Church World Service—or other designated global hunger relief programs—and several local hunger action and outreach programs.

In the April 2006 walk, walkers from Spokane and Cheney raised $30,794, just slightly less than the record of $31,345 raised in 2005 for the 25th annual walk.  Two years ago, it raised $27,000.

For many years, a team of five with the support of hundreds of other volunteers—recruiters, walkers, sponsors and one-day assistants—has made this hunger education and action possible.

Church World Service, the relief, development and refugee assistance ministry of 35 U.S. Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican denominations, serves through indigenous organizations in more than 80 countries.  It provides CROP Walk Committees with resources for planning walks and educating people. 

The local committee has several regular supporters who do the tasks necessary to make the event possible.

In 1971, Bonnie moved to Spokane from Colfax when her husband, Disciples of Christ pastor the Rev. Jim Churchwell, came to serve the Jefferson St. Christian Church.    Over the years, both Bonnie and Jim worked for the U.S. Postal Service in Spokane.  She retired in 2001 after 24 years of service.

Their children had walked in CROP Walks and Bonnie, who grew up in Kansas, first learned about Church World Service when her farmer father was asked to contribute grain for trainloads sent abroad.  She learned more about it in Enid, Okla., where she studied business at Phillips University and met Jim, then a student at Philips Theological Seminary.

A 1992 trip to Ecuador to visit children she sponsored through Compassion International gave her firsthand experiencing seeing the needs of people in a poor country.

“I began sponsoring children when I started work at the post office.  At first, the children were the same ages as our children.  Now we sponsor six children—in Haiti, Honduras, Ethiopia, Kenya and Indonesia—and a college student in Guatemala, contributing monthly support and letters,” Bonnie said.

She follows and supports students through college or vocational training in their own countries, so they stay to improve lives of people there.

CROP 06

Walkers from many churches make CROP Hunger Walks successful.

These connections fed the concerns that tied to her commitment in recent years to make sure Spokane has a CROP Hunger Walk.

“It’s an opportunity for all Christians and people of faith to gather around their common concern about hunger,” she said, giving small churches an opportunity to participate in a large event.

The committee works with congregations to find volunteer recruiters to work a few weeks on education about hunger as part of recruiting walkers and sponsors in their congregations. 

“We are growing older and need younger people to help carry on the work of recruiting, contacting churches and doing follow up from January through spring,” Bonnie said.

“We want people to come alongside us, to learn what we do and offer new ideas,” she said.

 Garold Steed makes arrangements with Gonzaga University about meeting at Martin Centre and obtains permits needed.

Bev Blott, secretary, writes letters before and after the event. 

Dave Noble arranges music the day of the walk and sets up the stage.

Elisa Pupo does publicity.

Polly McMahon, who teaches at Spokane Falls Community College, volunteers her class to give eight to 10 hours on the day of the walk.

Forty-seven churches sent walkers in 2006. 

Several businesses, plus Catholic Charities, the Interfaith Council, Mid City Concerns, Valley Meals on Wheels, Interfaith Hospitality and Second Harvest provide support.

Because churches may cut mission first when budget crunches arise, she said CROP Walks are good ways for people to be involved and learn about the needs—even if it’s just for one day a year.

“Throughout the Bible, we are charged to watch out for the widow, orphans and the poor.  Christians have that obligation along with converting people,” Bonnie said.  “We have so much here.  God blesses Americans and has given more than expected.  If we sit down to eat a meal and have clothes, how can we ignore with a clear conscience feeling obligated to share our love?

CROP walkers

Youth share in joy of walking to help people locally and globally.

“The walk is an opportunity with low overhead to move some of what we have to places around the globe that suffer,” she said.

“Denominations work together with a common goal to take care of those who do not have the wealth we have.  If we were in need, we would want help.

“What compels me is the chance to share in Christ’s name, because the gifts continue long term.  We can make what we have bigger,” Bonnie said.

“I would love to see more people involved.  Even though Hurricanes Katrina and Rita drew many additional financial gifts last year, we maintained our giving level for the walk,” Bonnie commented.

The tasks are “do-able,” she said, with more required from January through April.

The Churchwells have moved from Spokane and now live in Oregon where they continue to support work of CROP Walks.

For information contact Randy Goss at 468-4099 or Sylvia Barney at 981-1420.